Capitol Hill Block Party, Friday
On one side of the main stage, to the left if one is facing the stage, is the 21 and older area; to the right is the all-ages area. Separating these two areas are two metal fences, not as tall as you are, with a six foot or so DMZ in between. Comparisons to cattle pens are hard to avoid, especially when you are crushed on all sides by girls in large sunglasses and tights from American Apparel and guys, also in large sunglasses, wearing t-shirts from Threadless and short, carefully messy haircuts. You may feel like you are being punished for something, hemmed in as you are by the closely proximate bodies of other large mammals on a warmish day. Your reward for this hemming in is the man known as Girl Talk dancing around his laptop wearing a goofy ’80s (or Wes Anderson) headband while large numbers of your fellow hipsters dance onstage next to him – amateur dancers recruited from the audience apparently being the inexpensive solution Mr. Talk found to the problem of putting on a live show if you are just one guy who makes your music on a laptop. And Menomena, the band which sounds sort of, but not quite, like TV on the Radio. And Vampire Weekend, whose set of tepid indie pop was apparently the goal of the attempted gate-crasher who was taken down by security and led via Vulcan neck pinch back outside the charmed circle of the block party.
If, like me, you wander over to the all-ages stage as part of your quest to meet up with the friends you agreed to meet with only the vaguest of direction – “I’ll text you when I get there” – you go through a gauntlet of people advertising to you: young men and women ask you if you want an ACLU sticker or a free phone from a phone company which may or may not have been Verizon. Luckily, I got to see the last half hour or so of Mika Miko’s great set at said all ages stage. Mika Miko play lo-fi danceable punk, part of which is shouted into a mike which looks like an old school telephone headset. My five-year-old daughter, who did not attend the block party, approves. (Hear and see Mika Miko’s Business Cats). There was moshing and stage diving. I felt really really old.
The beer was not ridiculously overpriced, which made things easier to bear. After Mika Miko, I met up with my friends. At King Cobra, we watched part of Champagne Champagne’s not terribly interesting set while the big televisions over the bar played Death Proof. One of their MCs wore a Nirvana shirt. When I wasn’t paying attention, a sizable fraction of their audience found its way onto the stage to dance next to them.
Later, finally, Les Savy Fav came onto the main stage. During the show, Tim Harrington lost his shirt, rubbed his ample belly, rolled up his cutoffs, threw water onto the audience, was hit in the head with a plastic (empty) water bottle and kept on singing as if nothing had happened, identified his band as Chicken Burger, wandered out into the audience and offered the mike to some dude who was, like, ten feet away from me, wielded a plastic light-up specter in his hand and, later, in the front of his pants (while wearing a plush purple robe and crown and singing “Rage in the Plague Age”), and so on. It was a great show. We then made our way back to the King Cobra to watch the last bit of Pleasureboaters’ set. They make abrasive danceable punk which is much better live than recorded. In the audience, right up front, was Hunter S. Thompson’s younger doppelganger, wearing aviator sunglasses and putting his fingers through weird twitchy movements in a rhythm which bore an uncertain relation to the music on offer. Death Proof was still playing; at the point I looked away from the stage to the large televisions over the bar, the brown-haired girl with the large lips was performing her dance for the murderous Kurt Russell character and, had it matched up rhythmically, would have been a dandy accompaniment to the Pleasureboaters.
We pushed our way out through the massed hipsters and, eventually, to the Hurricane. I’m too old for this shit.